Man Accused of Being Serial Fraudster Taken into Federal Custody for Allegedly Bilking People while Free on Bond in Prior Case
LOS ANGELES – A West Hollywood man was taken into federal custody today in relation to new fraud charges that alleged he participated in a series of scams while free on bond and after pleaded guilty in a prior federal case.
Jeffrey Craig Yohai, 36, who is the former son-in-law of Paul Manafort, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
A criminal complaint outlining alleged criminal conduct over the past year was unsealed today. Yohai made his initial appearance in the new case this afternoon in United States District Court, where he was ordered held without bond pending trial.
The case unsealed today outlines several fraud schemes, which are similar to the criminal conduct outlined in the original federal case. In both criminal cases, Yohai obtained money for what he claimed was a legitimate purpose, such as an investment, but he then used the money for personal expenses or to pay debts. According to court documents, Yohai typically lulled victims into believing that the money had been used properly. When a victim demanded repayment, Yohai often sent checks with insufficient funds, according to court documents. When he was called to account for the bounced checks, he typically claimed that he had wired the money to the victim, a claim he would support with bogus documentation of a wire transfer.
The first case, which resulted in a guilty plea, involved approximately $15 million in real estate loans that supposedly would be used to purchase and rehabilitate properties in the Hollywood Hills. According to court documents, Yohai defaulted on the loans and the properties went into foreclosure – which Yohai tried to delay with bankruptcy filings.
The case unsealed today discusses the prior loan fraud case, as well as evidence of prior scams, including a $6 million investment scheme and a check-kiting scheme involving more than $500,000 in checks that bounced.
The new case alleges a loan fraud scheme related to two of the properties at issue in the original federal case. Here, Yohai allegedly submitted a loan request that contained inflated appraisals. He also attempted to defraud another lender as he attempted to refinance the two properties, and Yohai contacted yet another lender with dramatically inflated appraisals to obtain refinancing – an effort that was rebuffed when that third lender learned of Yohai’s guilty plea earlier this year, according to court documents.
The case unsealed today also contains allegations that Yohai defrauded the owner of a rental property and attempted to lull the owner by showing him a $60,000 check he falsely claimed had been remitted from his ex-wife’s account. There are additional fraudulent acts outlined in the complaint which are the subject of criminal cases filed in state court, including a scam in which he sold non-existent artist passes to the music festival in Coachella.
The charges in the complaint contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If he were to be convicted of the charges in the complaint, Yohai would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for the charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.
Yohai was originally taken into custody on October 31 by the Los Angeles Police Department on cases filed by local prosecutors. Yohai was in state custody until he was turned over to federal authorities this morning.
The case against Yohai is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Major Crimes Division.
The two case against Yohai are being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Brown of the Major Frauds Section.
Release No. 18-182